When people hear of robots they think of a huge metallic machine with eyes, arms and legs. The word robot was coined by Karel Capek in 1920. In industrial usage, robots bring productivity and ease of assembly to operators. Operators will often categorize robots on the basis of their functions, like a packaging robot. The first robotic assembly line was built by Henry Ford before the name ‘robot’ was mainstream, in 1913. World’s first robotic arm was created in 1963 and it was a pioneer in the field of engineering.
As robots are designed for different purposes, many configurations of robotic systems are found in the world. Here are the main features of a robotic arm:
- It is maneuverable
- It allows intricate movements
- It can carry heavy loads
- It can provide customized speeds
Robotic arms are created to perform a very specific task quickly and smoothly. The robotic arms of today provide high accuracy and efficiency in different processes. Repetitive functions that need to happen hundreds of times in a day can be easily handles with robotic arms for extended periods of time. Most robotic arm machines are motor-driven and used in assembly, packaging and manufacturing fields.
A typical robotic arm contains a series of joints, articulators and manipulations that work in unison to mimic the movement of a human arm. From a mechanical perspective, human arms are the inspiration behind any kind of robotic arm. Programmable robotic arms can either be a complete machine in them or can work like an individual unit of a larger machine.
Each of these robots is designed with a lot of thought and perfection. Majority of these arms have up to 6 joints that run through a motor and are controlled by a computer. These joints enable precise movements of the hand and allow precise repeated movements, just like different parts come together to play music from an instrument.
Types of robotic arms
In today’s market, there are numerous types and sizes of robotic arms. The key difference between robotic arms is in the way their joints are designed, movement they perform and the footprint required for installation and adaptation.
Gantry Robotic Arms
Cartesian or Gantry robotic arms are named after the Cartesian coordinate system. Cartesian coordinates of X and Y and the Z axis are what we normally see on any graph. In robotic terms, the joints are designed in the Cartesian coordinates of X, Y and Z. Therefore, the arm is able to move in all of these axes.
These arms are widely used in conveyor belt factories for picking and placing items during the day.
Cylindrical robotic arms follow the cylindrical coordinates system. All the programmed movements in this type of arm happen in a cylindrical shape area. These arms are deployed in operating assembly systems, welding and machine tool handling. The rotary and prismatic joints give these arms both linear and horizontal movement.
Just like cylindrical robotic arms, spherical arms move within a spherical area. This movement is made possible through a rotational joint, rotary joint and linear joint. The polar or spherical robotic arm connects to the base with one twisting joint. These arms also handle machine tool, casting die and spot welding like cylindrical arms.
You will find SCARA arms most commonly in pick-and-place processes. SCARA stands for Selective Compliant Assembly Robot Arm. Their selective compliance makes them ideal for working in a high-tech production line being flexible in particular directions but not in others makes them fit for the job and allows insertion of parts in spaces that require accuracy.
Using Robotic Arms
By now, you must have a fair idea of the usage of various types of robotic arms. Industrial production, process and manufacturing becomes so much easier with any type of robotic arm. You select an arm based on your task’s requirement and then deploy it to the job. These tasks usually involve
- Loading: All robotic arms have a load capacity and different robots are supported by different frameworks. You pick and deploy an arm based on its load capacity.
- Orientation: Mounting and positioning of a robotic arm are a big concern for any factory owner. Certain types of arms require more space whereas others fit into a restricted space. These factors should be considered to increase the robotic arm’s efficiency.
- Speed: When choosing robotic arms for pick and place duties, you must take speed into consideration. The speed of the arm must not outrun that of other machinery and vice versa.
- Precision: Some robotic arms are designed to be more precise than others. You may have to pay more for better precision and accuracy in movement.
- Cycle of Duty: How long will the arm work in a day is a big consideration. There has to be significant rest period for the machine to cool down as well. Maintenance regimes depend on the cycle of duty of any robotic arm and its total capacity of working.
Can You Build Robotic Arms at Home?
In a word: yes. There are several DIY guides you can follow to make a robotic arm in the comfort of your home. Supplies for these units can be ordered online. Here’s one video showing how to build a robotic arm at home. Remember, while different videos will ask you to take different steps, the basic process and required components are bound to be the same. For example, you’ll need to invest in an Arduino, a USB cable that connects with a computer, a breadboard, and various lengths of wire.
Best Robotic Arms to Buy
Of course, you can always take the shorter route and invest in a professionally made robotic arm kit The benefit of doing so is that you’re less likely to experience design and functionality flaws than if you were to build one as a beginner. Below are some recommendations for the best robotic arm kits in the market.
This arm kit uses a high-precision digital servo and has an all metal construction. Its 6DOF structural design ensures the robotic arm is able to grab objects in all directions. The package comes with video tutorials that teach users how to assemble the arm step-by-step. There’s also support for wireless handle and free mobile apps.
If you’re looking to teach robotic arm construction to your kids, you can’t go wrong with this piece. The robotic arm of this unit is wired controlled and can grab, rotate, and even move objects. There is a total of 5 motors that power various joints for movement, control, and fun. If there are young engineers in your house, they’ll surely be invested in learning.
This is a big boy toy rather than a learning kit for the children. The robotic controller in this unit has built-in Bluetooth, ARM core CPU, 16M storage, and single action group boasting 510 actions. It also has a serial servo motor, a motor shaft lock, and more. Despite having so many features, it comes with a simple wiring design.
If Iron Man’s different suits have taught you anything, you’ll agree that you can always improve with a robot. A great place to experience the robotic world is to start with a robotic arm. Most robotic arm kits require fundamental skills to operate, and you can later maneuver it in a variety of ways once you gain some experience. If robots always get you excited, then it’s hard to beat the joys of owning or building a robotic arm.